A Florida lawmaker introduced a bill on Monday that would decriminalize low-level marijuana possession in the state.
Rep. Shevrin Jones (D) filed the legislation, which would make possession and delivery of 20 grams or less of cannabis a noncriminal violation that does not carry jail time.
“We must restore justice to our broken criminal justice system,” Jones said in a press release. “For far too long, communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana, and we must end this injustice once and for all.”
Happy to introduce my first bill of the 2020 legislative session! Making our communities equitable and safer starts with ensuring that people have a fair shot. Floridians need reform of cannabis laws, and we will make sure we end the injustice of overcriminalization. #WEthePEOPLE pic.twitter.com/0L79ENpRhH
— Shevrin Jones (@ShevrinJones) August 5, 2019
“After being charged with possession, many Floridians feel the lasting impact as their student financial aid, employment opportunities, housing eligibility, or immigration status are adversely affected,” Jones said. “When we take away these foundational compounds of security, we’re capping people’s potential in life. That’s why I’m proud to introduce legislation to fix this problem.”
“By tackling this issue, we can make our communities more equitable and safer.”
The bill, which would also cover possession of up to 600 milligrams of THC, was introduced one week after activists cleared their first hurdle toward placing a broader marijuana legalization initiative on the state’s 2020 ballot. They collected enough verified signatures to get the measure reviewed by the state Supreme Court. Still, there’s a long road ahead of organizers, who must secure 766,200 valid signatures to put the proposal before voters next year.
“Florida has one of the most punitive systems when it comes to simple possession,” NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf told Marijuana Moment. “Anything that can be done to lift their draconian policies is a crucial step in the right direction and we look forward to supporting Rep. Jones in this effort.”
While the prospects of legalization remain murky, jurisdictions throughout Florida are pushing ahead with decriminalization plans. The city commission of Cocoa Beach approved a measure in May to decriminalize possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana, for example, and a local lawmaker is working to accomplish the same feat in Tallahassee.
But as it stands, state law maintains that simple possession is punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
Police in the state have said that enforcing cannabis laws has been complicated by the passage of legislation legalizing hemp, however. Without the means to differentiate marijuana from its low-THC cannabis cousin, law enforcement has issued guidance advising officers to be wary of conflating the two crops and to take extra measures to ensure that individuals are not subject to prosecution for legal hemp.
The text of Jones’s new decriminalization bill contains an apparent drafting error. While other subsections state that possession of 20 grams or less would be a noncriminal violation, one line describes the offense as a misdemeanor. Presumably, that section was meant to designate that possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana would become a misdemeanor. Marijuana Moment reached out to Jones’s office for clarification, but a representative was not immediately available.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.